"The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock."
It's an interesting story, this one. The people are thirsty. There's no water. They're grumbling. Again. God gives Moses a way out - a way to provide for the needs of the people. Moses does that. But not exactly the way God asked him to. So he got scolded. It's a curious story.
The peculiarities of what went wrong are this: Moses was told to command the rock to yield water. Instead, he used the infamous staff (ala 10 Plagues & Red Sea fame) and hit the rock. Twice.
So was the original plan more God-honoring (meaning the people would know the water was a gift from God with mere words, but might attribute the precision of the hitting to Moses' doing)? Or was it simply the fact that they didn't follow God's commands explicitly?
But there's one other factor: the words spoken by Moses. "Listen you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" (v.10). Could it be Moses was taking all the credit for this gift of water here, giving none to God? This could be a far greater sin. I know how easy it is to assume all the blessings in life come from hard work and personal "talent". WRONG! It's all from God. As a pastor, I need to make sure that I give God the credit for all of the success and blessings in my ministry. It's really not about me at all. It's about God. Period.